Armed Hostilities

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb: History


Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, the first and only atomic bombs to target enemy cities in a war, were created as an outcome of the Manhattan Project. The name was because the project depended on previous research (Atomic Bomb 3) done in New York. The chief scientist was Robert Oppenheimer, the fled German physics scientist, and was led by General Leslie Grove. The project began in 1942 when intelligence information confirmed the Nazi trials to create radioactive Uranium 235 from Uranium 238 in a trial to build a Nazi atomic bomb. The first test for the newly developed US atomic bomb was in the desert of New Mexico, on 16 July 1945 (Known as Trinity Test) (Jones, The Second Atomic Bomb).

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The decision

On August 6th, 1945 an atomic bomb targeted Hiroshima, three days later (9th August), a second bomb targeted Nagasaki. During the remaining few weeks before the complete unconditioned surrender of Japan and after that, the official account was bombarding of Japanese cities aimed at ending the war with Japan effectively without further losses of American lives. The only alternative was to invade Japan with many US human casualties.

Later after the end of World War II, eminent US military leaders opposed this opinion as General Macarthur, General Eisenhower, Admiral Leahy (President Trumann Chief of Staff), and General Arnold (Commander of US Air force) (Greenpiece UK, Why was the atomic bomb dropped in 1945?). Not only had many military leaders opposed the decision, but also the scientists who took part in creating the bomb signed a petition (17th July 1945) not to use this bomb to attack Japanese cities.

The petition was named Szilard petition after the physics scientist Leo Szilard (1898-1964) (Jones, The Second Atomic Bomb). After the success of the Trinity test, President Trumann told Winston Churchill and Marshal Stalin (During their meeting in Potsdam) about his plans to bombard Japan and they approved. Afterward, President Truman called for a meeting attended by military leaders, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of War; they recognized the high price of US human lives if an invasion of Japan occurred with the available abilities. Therefore, President Trumann took the decision (Trumann reflections on the Atomic Bombings (1953).

The mission

After Hiroshima, the second target was Kokura; however, the mission did not take place as planned. It was delayed because of technical problems with the aircraft before taking off. The mission was planned to include three aircraft (photographic, strike, and instrumentation) however, the photographic aircraft did not reach the meeting point over the island of Takashima. Flying over Kokura, three trials failed because of thick smoke and unclear visibility, therefore, the attack was directed to Nagasaki, the secondary target city. Over Nagasaki, the clouds were thick and the decision taken is to bomb with the aid of radar. The destination of dropping the bomb was between Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Ohashi Torpedo Works (Malik, 1985).

Why Nagasaki

Although Nagasaki was at the bottom of the list of cities previously selected by the Target Committee; yet, it was selected for few reasons. It was the center of ancient trade with China and Southeast Asia; later it was the center of trade with Europe. The people are highly educated and it was the center of important military industries. However, the question remains why drop a second atomic bomb?

Knowing the Manhattan project was primarily to compete with the Nazis in producing an atomic bomb, Japan was never a nuclear threat. The second was not Hiroshima bomb enough to result in the unconditional surrender of the Japanese forces? Despite claims of necessity, the shadow of other reasons will always remain. The desire to revenge Pearl Harbor and the necessity of keeping the Soviet allies out of Southeast Asia are possible reasons. Besides, the idea of deterring the Soviet Union (the force to face after the war) should have been in the back minds of decision-makers (Hiroshima and Nagasaki from auto-archive).

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Hiroshima versus nagasaki

Two types of atomic bombs resulted from the Manhattan Project, the first known as Little Boy (Hiroshima bomb), where Uranium 235 was the active material. It produced damage by triggering a nuclear explosion resulting from a nuclear fission reaction. The second type was the Fat Man (Nagasaki bomb), where Plutonium 239 was the active material. It produced damage by implosion rather than explosion. As the different names imply, the devastating power of Fat Man was greater than the Hiroshima bomb (The Story of Hiroshima: design of two bombs).

The damage of Nagasaki city was because of the complex effect of pressure waves, heat waves, blast, and secondary fires (known collectively as the power of bomb blast). Besides, the atomic bomb added the radiation exposure effect never known before Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. According to data released in 1950, the Nagasaki bomb resulted in 73884 dead persons, 74909 injured, 18509 damaged houses, 11574 completely burned houses, and 1326 flattened houses. The number of living Nagasaki citizens after the bomb was 131050 (out of 210000 per the last census before the bomb) (Shirabe, 2002).


The debate about the use of atomic bombs in general and on civil targets, in particular, is multifaceted, ethical, military, and political. The Nagasaki atomic bomb has a special question, was it needed to end the war or for other reasons? The great devastation produced by this bomb displays the need and value of wisdom and foreseeing the dangers in taking political decisions, and how valuable peace is in contrast to human suffering. It also points to the importance of controlling newly joined countries to the nuclear club (India and Pakistan) and controlling those who are trying to develop atomic weapons (North Korea and Iran). In 1945, the US was the only state to have an atomic bomb, now with many countries having this technology; one can imagine the terrible volume of destruction a nuclear war can make.

References Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Online]. Web., 1953. Truman’s Reflections on the Atomic Bombings [Online]. Web. The Story of Hiroshima: design of two bombs [Online]. Web.

Greenpeace, UK. Why was the atomic bomb dropped in 1945?. Web.

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Jones, W. The Second Bomb. Web.

Malik J, 1985. The Yields of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Nuclear Explosions. Web.

Los Alamos National Laboratory LA-8819, UC-34.

Shirabe R, 2002. A Physician’s Diary of the Atomic Bombing and its Aftermath. Nagasaki, Japan: Nagasaki Association for Hibakusha’s Medical Care (NASHIM).

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